Newcomers Power Baseball to Home-Opening Win

Feb. 24, 2012

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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- In his first career at bat at home, Kentucky freshman A.J. Reed launched a grand slam into the teeth of 35-40 mile per hour wind gusts and UK got two additional homers from Austin Cousino and Zac Zellers as the Wildcats pounded Buffalo 13-4 in the 2012 home opener, on Friday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Kentucky (4-0) opened up its homestand and 2012 home schedule with an offensive juggernaut against Buffalo. UK pounded out 13 runs on 13 hits, drawing nine walks and getting plunked by four pitches. UK’s offensively highlight came in the first inning, as Reed connected on a no-doubt grand slam to erase a first-inning UB lead, the first career plate appearance for the UK freshman.

A 6-foot-4, 235-pound standout two-way player, Reed smashed his first career homer, while Cousino and Zellers each recorded their first career home run. Reed led the team with a career-high six RBI, the first six-RBI game for a UK player since Lance Ray launched two three-run homers in a win over LSU in 2010.

Cousino, a 2011 Baseball America first-team All-America in high school, went 2-for-6 at the top of the order with three RBI. His homer came to leadoff the game – also in his first career home at bat – the first leadoff homer for UK since Neiko Johnson homered to open the game for the Wildcats in a smashing of Indiana in 2011.

The Wildcats also got a multi-hit effort from senior Thomas McCarthy and catcher Luke Maile, with McCarthy batting 2-for-4 and Maile contributing a 2-for-3 game with three runs scored and two walks. Zeller’s first career homer was his lone hit in three at bats. Lucas Witt, Matt Reida and Michael Williams each added hits, while J.T. Riddle drew two walks and got hit by two pitches. Outfielder Brian Adams also came off the bench to record his first hit of the year.

UK starter Taylor Rogers (2-0) turned in his second consecutive quality start to open the season, going six innings and allowing three runs on four hits. Rogers, a native of Littleton, Colo., walked one and struck out a career-high nine, the second consecutive start with nine strikeouts. Rogers damage came in the first inning courtesy of a wind-blown triple and a wind-blown homer, before the lefty settled in and struck out seven of his next eight hitters and retired nine in a row in that span.

UK got a good relief performance, as righty Chris Garrison came on in the seventh and despite allowing a solo homer, settled down to toss two innings with two strikeouts. Tim Peterson relieved Garrison and got the final three outs, striking out two.

Buffalo (0-1) starter Cameron Copping (0-1) suffered the loss, allowing nine run on five walks in three innings. UB also used Cory Folk, Anthony Magovney and Mike McGee in relief.

Kentucky returns to action no Saturday in the second game of the season, hosting the Bulls at 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WGVN 1580-AM or online at UK will send junior lefty Jerad Grundy (1-0, 0.00 ERA) to the mound to take on UB senior right-hander Kevin Hughes.

Buffalo got off to a hot start with a 3-2 triple from leadoff batter Jason Kanzler just out of the reach of centerfielder Austin Cousino. Jon Mestas followed up Kanzler’s triple with a first-pitch home run to centerfield giving the Bulls a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Rogers would salvage the first inning by striking out the next three batters.

Kentucky wouldn’t stay down long as Cousino put Kentucky on the scoreboard with a lead-off home run to left field, the first of his career. After walks by McCarthy, Maile and Williams, Reed cleared the bases with a grand slam against the wind in rightfield, the first career homer for the freshman.

After the rough start, Rogers found his groove, striking out seven of the first nine outs. The Wildcats threatened in the bottom of the second, loading the bases. Riddle got a rally going with a two-out hit by pitch followed by a line-drive base hit up the middle by McCarthy. Maile reached base on an error by the Buffalo first basemen but Copping worked his way out of the jam, getting a much needed called third strike.  

Zellers led off Kentucky in the third with a home run to left, his first as a Wildcat. Reida would follow Zellers’ home run with his first career triple before being stranded at third with the Wildcats leading 6-1 through three.

Buffalo wasn’t dead yet as star catcher Tom Murphy led off the top of the fourth with a line-drive double to left centerfield. With Murphy on second, Kentucky committed its first error of the season on a pickoff attempt by Rogers that advanced Murphy to third with no outs. Buffalo first baseman Alex Baldock knocked Murphy in with a double of his own off the left-field wall. Rogers fought back and left Baldock stranded on second.

Kentucky started to pour it on in the bottom of the fourth. Riddle reached base on a lead-off walk and Kentucky would use small ball to move him to third on a perfectly executed hit-and-run base hit for McCarthy. After a Maile walk, the left-handed Folk would replace Copping on the mound, entering in a no-out, bases-loaded jam. With a base hit to rightfield, Reed knocked in two runs, increasing his RBI total to six on the day. Following Reed, Lucas Witt extended his hit streak to nine with a single to centerfield, scoring Maile from third. Cousino knocked in Reed and Witt on a bases-loaded, two-out single up the middle, giving Kentucky an 11-3 lead after four.

With his ninth strikeout, Rogers would surrender no runs in his sixth and final inning. Adams would lead off the bottom of the sixth with a single to left before being stranded in a scoreless inning for the Wildcats.

Garrison took the mound for Kentucky in the top of the seventh, only to surrender one run in two innings of work from a Dan Scahill solo home run to right field.

The Wildcats weren’t finished scoring yet when Riddle led off the Wildcats with another walk in the bottom of the seventh. Maile’s double off the center field wall scored Riddle while Maile would advance to third on an error from the relay on Buffalo’s shortstop. Williams’ base hit to right field scored Maile. Kentucky loaded the bases but left them stranded, leaving the eighth with a 13-4 lead.

After two innings from Garrison, Peterson took the mound for the Wildcats in the top of the ninth.  Peterson sealed the Wildcats’ victory with two strikeouts in the final inning.

GAME NOTES: Several Wildcats made their collegiate debuts, including freshmen Tyler Raymond and Max Kuhn … A.J. Reed’s grand slam was the first since Taylor Black hit a grand slam against UIC on Feb. 25, 2011 … Reed is the first player to hit a grand slam as his first career homer since Luke Maile in 2010 … Maile also hit his first career homer in his first career home at bat, a feat achieved by Reed and Austin Cousino … Cousino hit the first UK leadoff homer since Neiko Johnson vs. Indiana in 2011 … Zac Zellers launched his first career homer … Thomas McCarthy collected his 33rd career two-out hit in the second inning and has now reached base safely in 14 consecutive games and in 56 of his 57 starts … Matt Reida charted his first career triple … UK committed its first error of the season on a pickoff, charged to Taylor Rogers … Rogers tossed his second consecutive quality start and the 13th of his career … Rogers equaled his career high, set last week at Wofford, with nine strikeouts … Brian Adams got his first hit of the 2012 season … Reed is the first player with six RBI in a game since Lance Ray collected six RBI in a win over LSU.